Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.


Friday night = fish.

Well, these days, not always.

But my memories of Friday night fish are as strong as the aroma, no - smell, that wafted through the house when I was growing up.

As a child, I thought all cooked fish was hard and brown. But it wasn't! That's just the way mum did it!

I didn't mind the smell and I didn't mind the overcooked fish. In fact, I loved it. Those crunchy bits and the blackened silver skin were delicious, especially with too much salt and a squeeze of lemon. Then I grew up and discovered restaurants charging way too much for blackened fish in some five-minute trend that went through in the eighties (There's nothing wrong with blackened fish, I'm just chary of food trends).

The fish and chip shop around the corner did huge business on Friday nights. It was full from about six o'clock through to eight or so. People were out on the street waiting. I think they had a number system or something. But they were fast. And you can't beat the steaming aroma of salted and vinegared fresh battered flake and potato chips wrapped in butcher's paper (in those days they used newspaper) with a wedge of lemon.

Sometimes on Fridays I make a simple marinara sauce - half a dozen each of calamari rings, prawns, baby octopus, scallops, mussels in the shell and a piece of any firm-fleshed fish, cubed; and all dropped into a pan in which is simmering a cup of white wine and the juice from a can of tomatoes with a clove of garlic and a few cracked peppercorns. Throw in a chile pepper for a spicy variation.

The fish won't take long, a few minutes. Throw the mussels in first to open up then turn down the heat and toss in the rest. (Mussels will produce extra fluid as they open so compensate with less to begin with.) Finish it off with a swirl of cream if you wish and shower plenty of chopped parsley over it.

I usually have the pasta already cooking in a big pot of salted water, ready to serve, it works well with plain spaghetti.

Serve with crusty bread to mop up the sauce. And a rich dry white bold enough for the fish. Or cold beer on a hot day. It's good.

But not as good as mum's blackened fish.

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